Friday, June 19, 2015

Tú and Du/I and Thou

Many who have heard of Martin Buber's seminal "I and Thou" assume it is  about a "me and God" relationship.  
That is not ultimately wrong;
                                   but not completely right, either.
Some have suggested the title  should be  translated "I and You," or in Spanish, "Yo y Tu" (informal "you").
Not quite wrong;
                                      not perfectly right.
As  Nicholas Lash notes (citing Walter Kaufman)"

The first problem  for the English-speaking reader of the book is to know how to take the title. Buber is writing about personal relationships between human beings, and between human beings and their world--about (we might say) friendship and friendliness.  What pronoun  shall we use for friendship's address?  In many languages, the choice would be straightforward.  Thus, in  Buber's  German, 'Du is spontaneous and unpretentious, remote from formality, pomp and dignity.' It is no longer so with Thou. "Thou can mean many things, but it has no place whatsoever in the language of direct, nonliterary, spontaneous human relationships'
Moreover, in modern English, Thou brings God to mind and yet, until the third and final part of the book, Buber speaks hardly at all of address to God..  {though} privately Buber referred to the works as "Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion."  -Lash, pp 184-185 of Easter in Ordinary

Uh, good thing the publisher DID convince Buber to change the title...otherwise we may have never heard of this classic(:\

From prologue of I and Thou, pg. 14-15:

“I-You sounds unfamiliar. What we are accustomed to is I-Thou. But man’s attitudes are manifold, and Thou and You are not the same. Nor is Thou very similar to the German Du.
German lovers say Du to one another, and so do friends. Du is spontaneous and unpretentious, remote from formality, pomp, and dignity.
What lovers or friends say Thou to one another? Thou is scarcely ever said spontaneously.
Thou immediately brings to mind God; Du does not. And the God of whom it makes us think is not the God to whom one might cry out in gratitude, despair, or agony, not the God of whom one complains or prays spontaneously; it is the God of the pulpits, The God of the holy tone.
When men pray spontaneously or speak directly to God, without any mediator, without any intervention of formulas, when they speak as their heart tells them to speak instead of repeating what is printed, do they say Thou? How many know the verb forms Thou commands?
The world of Thou has many mansions. Thou is a preacher’s word but also dear to anticlerical romantic poets. Thou is found in Shakespeare and at home in the English Bible, although recent versions of the Scriptures have tended to dispense with it. Thou can mean many things, but it has no place whatever in the language of direct, nonliterary, spontaneous human relationships.
If one could liberate I-Thou from affectation, the price for that would still involve reducing it to a mere formula, to jargon. But suppose a man wrote a book about direct relationships and tried to get away from the formulas of theologians and philosophers: a theologian would translate it and turnIch und Du into I and Thou.  link

"I see Thou as a Tú"

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